Flying HomeA weather check on Sunday morning showed clear skies ahead and no reason to rush home. We enjoyed a relaxed breakfast at an outdoor patio restaurant and took in the city surroundings once more. This late departure routine could be habit forming.
Although I am more of a morning person than Nancy, it really was nice to sleep in and just wander around a bit in the city before heading to the airport. Many of our flying trips are in the summer, so we are in the habit of departing as early as we can to take advantage of the cool air before the afternoon turbulence and thunderstorms kick in. On this October day, there wasn’t any significant weather to worry about, which was a nice change.
Our clearance out of Oakland was little more complicated than the “cleared as filed” that we got from Boise approach on the way here. The picture here shows the route that I originally filed for in blue (SALAD1.ALTAM V28 LIN HNW SWR V6 FMG V113 RENOL), and the route we were cleared to in magenta (NIMI2.OAK COLLIE V6 SAC V392 FMG V113 RENOL). Our clearance on the radio was “Mooney 201UT is cleared to the Nampa Municipal Airport via Nimitz Two departure, radar vectors COLLIE V6 Sacramento V396 Mustang, then as filed, climb and maintain 3,000 departure frequency 127.0, squawk 3603.”
What I wrote down was:
R NIMITZ TWO RV COLLIE V6 SAC V392 FMG AF
The clearance always comes in the same order so the CRAFT acronym helps to capture all the details of the clearance. I read the clearance back to the controller and then we checked it on the map and updated the GPS with our new routing.
As we were taxiing out to Oakland’s runway 27R, I spotted all the Red Bull Air Race planes parked off to our left. Some of the pilots were even out at their airplanes. The 2005 race season ended yesterday, so they were preparing for today’s exhibition flights.
We flew the NIMITZ TWO departure and ATC asked us to reply when we were established on the 313 radial from the Oakland VOR. Phil confirmed and the controller replied “eeeeexcellent” in a mad scientist voice that cracked us up. It was a rather amusing radio response from the controller. I thought he sounded more like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons than a mad scientist, but you get the idea. We could almost picture the controller tapping his fingertips together as his plan came together.
Uphill Both Ways
The winds for our past few trips have been extremely favorable. The pattern has been tailwinds in both directions, until this trip. We experienced a 30 knot headwind during Friday’s flight to California and again today on the way home. Our fancy new GPS faithfully told us how much the winds were impeding our progress, and the winds aloft graphic even showed us that the winds were forecast to be right on the nose of the airplane for the entire route. It wasn’t so bad though. The air was smooth, and it gave us time to enjoy the scenery.
Skimming the Clouds
As we neared Winnemucca, Nevada we encountered a scattered layer of clouds just below our cruising altitude of 12,000 feet. I’ve mentioned this in previous trip journals, but one of my favorite things to do is to fly in and out of the cloud tops. Most of the time when you are flying, even in a very fast commercial jet, you can’t really get a sense of how fast you are really going because the ground is so far away. Flying through cloud tops gives you that sense of speed as the puffy clouds come whizzing by at 155 knots (about 178 mph).
At 12,000 feet we’d be just a bit too high to get down into the cloud tops so I requested a block altitude of 10,000-12,000. There weren’t a lot of airplanes flying IFR in this stretch of the Nevada desert, so the controller had no problem approving the request. In addition to being a bit more fun, the lower altitude would give us slightly less headwind for the trip home. The video here will give you some idea of what it looks like to fly through the cloud tops, and even briefly through a cloud.
During these long trips, we take the iPod along to fill in the quiet stretches with music. Our audio panel has a jack that lets you plug in any music source and hear it in the headphones. The music is automatically muted during radio transmissions. We couldn’t use the iPod for the flight home since we forgot to charge it during our stay. I tried singing as a substitute to entertain Phil, but he kept cracking himself up by flipping the “pilot isolate” switch on the intercom. That switch was probably built just for this purpose, in the event someone starts singing into the intercom the pilot can flip the switch and all he hears is the communications radios and not the intercom. After that, we both decided that conversation would be best.
As we mentioned earlier, we were using oxygen as is our practice for long trips at altitude. At one point my nasal cannula slipped out of position. (If you don’t know what a cannula is, see the picture here.) Rather than telling me about it, Phil decided to push it back in place for me with a gentle nudge from his fingers. It seemed like a good idea to me at the time. After I recovered from the surprise feeling of nasal tubes sliding up my nostrils, I let Phil know that we now have a new rule regarding oxygen use: everyone adjusts their own oxygen cannula. It’s a fine policy and I fully support it, but it was pretty funny watching Nancy’s reaction to the little adjustment I made. I better savor that memory because I’m not going to be doing that again. Fortunately Nancy put that new rule in place before she “remembered” that my cannula needed adjusting.
Before we knew it, we were crossing the Owyhee Mountains and the familiar sights of the Snake River and the Treasure Valley came into view. We got the plane put away and thanked it for taking us on another great trip.